The Institute of Human Rights of the University of Deusto (Bilbao, The Basque Country, Spain) and Mundu Bat (One World, a Basque development NGO connected to Via Campesina) organized an international conference in Bilbao on 12-13 June 2017 to discuss new developments in connection with the rights of peasants.

Joanna Bourke-Martignoni participated as a speaker in the session that examined gender equality and the rights of peasant women. The Conference provided an interesting opportunity for an exchange of perspectives and experiences with people from peasants’ movements, farmers’ and fishers’ associations, government, the private sector, civil society and academia. The idea was to focus on the new draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Persons Working in Rural Areas and to discuss the way in which the document could be used in advocacy and policy-making activities.

Most ofthe participants at the conference came from Latin America and Spain and it was particularly enriching for me to hear about the similarities and differences – especially in relation to the rights of indigenous communities – between those contexts and the situation in Cambodia and Ghana that we are studying in the DEMETER research.

An analysis of constructions and stereotypes of the ‘peasant woman’’

Joanna’s intervention, problematized existing stereotypes and constructions of ‘the peasant woman’ as a monolithic entity who is simultaneously presented as a helpless victim of neo-liberal economic development and as the key to ensuring sustainable development and the realization of the rights to food, nutrition, education, health care for her family and in the community.

After providing an overview of the preliminary results of our DEMETER research in Cambodia and Ghana, Joanna analysed the recent General Recommendation no. 34 on the rights of rural women by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the provision on the rights of peasant women in the draft Declaration on the Rights of Peasants. Both of these international human rights instruments insist upon the importance of guaranteeing gender equality for the full realization of the rights to food, land and natural resources. The shortcomings of these texts – in particular the fact that they focus on women’s rights and not on gender as a relational concept – were also discussed.

To read the slides of the presentation: